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Mailbag: Comparison For Fowler? IR Rule Changes?

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From what I see, Dante Fowler Jr.'s play style looks a lot like DeMarcus Lawrence. He uses his hands well to free himself and create angles to the backfield like D-Law. I'm wondering if his stats don't necessarily tell a full story as to how he played recently as well. What do you guys think of Fowler being a bookend to Lawrence on the D-Line? – MARCO ASPAAS / VANCOUVER, WA

Nick: Obviously, the Cowboys wanted to re-sign Randy Gregory – that has been well-documented. But when he signed with the Broncos, the Cowboys obviously had to pivot, which included Dorance Armstrong and then Fowler. To me, Fowler's game looks a little more like Gregory than anyone else. They both are players that don't seem to be that big in stature but use their explosiveness and length to their advantage. Say what you want about Fowler's production, but he did record 11.5 sacks back in 2019, but he did get to play with Aaron Donald and we know the Cowboys don't have that type of defensive tackle on the roster – who does other than the Rams? But I think the Cowboys are just throwing options out there in Armstrong, Fowler, Sam Williams and Chauncey Golston, hoping that Dan Quinn can find a healthy rotation to go with D-Law.

Rob: That's a good description. Like Lawrence, Fowler has been a pretty productive run defender, too. I encourage you to check out Bucky Brooks' breakdown on Fowler from March. I don't think we should look at Fowler in a side-by-side comparison with Randy Gregory. The Cowboys used the money that would've gone to Gregory and signed Fowler and Dorance Armstrong, then drafted Williams. This will be a group effort to replace Gregory's production.

Due to Covid, didn't the NFL change the injured reserve policy that you could return as many players as you wanted and only sit out three weeks instead of eight? Are they doing this again in 2022-23? Does it seem like a good rule to make permanent? – MARK MUMFORD / WILMINGTON, DE

Nick: I haven't seen that to be the case. And yes, I've always thought the IR rules were too strict. I get why they did it that way – to prevent teams from stashing players. But guess what, it still happened then and it'll still happen now. But there are certain injuries – those broken collarbones of 8-10 weeks or a broken foot – that require teams to replace them on the roster, but not for the entire season. I hope that new rule is not changed back.

Rob: I haven't seen or heard anything yet that suggests the league is going back to the old rules. I'd be surprised if that happened. We've returned to a sense of normalcy so far this year, but it's not out of the question that Covid could again impact the league on some level this fall and winter. Having those new rules in place helps teams adjust their rosters. Plus, with an extra game on the schedule now, I just think it's a fair thing to provide teams, along with an expanded practice squad.

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